2 min read January 2023 — Invest: spoke with Nader Farhat, managing partner of PwC’s Jacksonville office, about the growth of Jacksonville in the past two decades, how it has transformed into a global city, the firm’s approach to building partnerships with clients and the frequent changes in tax legislation.
How have you watched client services evolve over the past two years?
Client service is all about relationships and creating trust. It’s important to provide clients with ideas and services that are relevant to their business. We partner with our clients, as their goals become our goals. While the pandemic, over the last couple of years, has changed how we work, it has not changed how we help our clients. Every company has areas to improve upon, and at PwC we devise a plan to help each, and every client accomplish those goals. The more our clients are successful, the more we are as well.
What’s been keeping your firm busy over the past year?
Our firm has been busy focusing on the massive growth in Jacksonville. Being a native of this city, Jacksonville has flown under the radar for years. Jacksonville is at a turning point, as we see significant investment coming into the city. It’s also becoming a hub for healthcare, logistics, and fintech. As Jacksonville grows, so will our firm. Over the past couple of years, we have grown our office from 140 professionals to nearly 200. While our firm has always focused on tax and assurance, we have also become leaders in our consulting practice by investing heavily in technology, cloud / digital, and system advisory.
With the large amount of growth, PwC has really focused on our people. The past couple of years have had a dramatic effect on people. People are really seeking opportunities that allow them to work on a flex basis to help work-life balance. PwC has launched M+ which is centered around choice and flexibility, and tailor-made to help further support development, well-being, purpose, and personal ambition. PwC is investing $2.4B in bringing this experience to life for our team, so that they can build their careers, choose the assignments they want to work on, the hours they work, where they work, and the benefits they need.
What do you believe Jacksonville needs to be successful in this next chapter?
Jacksonville needs to be open-minded as we tend to fear change. We seem to be headed in the right direction, as we see major development downtown. The amount of construction projects on the North and South Bank is the most I’ve seen in 40 years. We need to embrace that Jacksonville has become a hot market and one that people are flocking to because of the affordability, the people, the ease to do business, and the amazing surroundings that this city has to offer.
I believe in the next 10 years Jacksonville will be a totally different city with an extremely vibrant downtown. We’ve seen the amazing things that Shad Khan and the Jaguars are doing with the Shipyards, as well as other companies completing construction projects near the old courthouse and former Times-Union headquarters. It’s truly exciting.
What are you monitoring in regard to the regulatory and legislative environment?
Typically, tax legislation happens every 15 to 20 years. Now, we’re seeing a rapid change in tax law every couple of years when we have a change in political party. It has become extremely difficult for companies to keep track of all the changes. Companies rely on PwC to guide them in the right direction. I anticipate seeing much more change in the tax laws especially on the international side.
How is technology continuing to evolve your business and industry?
We’ve already seen an explosion of technology on the tax, assurance and consulting sides in the past couple of years. We’ve invested heavily into technology in order to transform the way we deliver value to clients and improve our customer experience. PwC has created alliances with Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Workday, SAP and Oracle in order to advise and enable meaningful transformation for our clients.
From a tax standpoint, we rolled out Sightline which is a collaborating software between our tax professionals and our clients which gives a 360 real time view of the tax landscape. It’s a centralized, end-to-end view of the client’s overall tax process, document sharing that’s actually easy, collaboration tools, as well as real-time data that provides our clients an opportunity to make calculated decisions.
What priorities lay ahead for the firm going into 2023?
The priority for our office is to grow, and we’re hiring a lot of colleagues to keep up with demand. We will likely continue to hire even as we see other companies slow down. Historically, we continued to hire during the economic slowdown in 2007 and 2008. We’ve had limited turnover as PwC has been dedicated to salary increases, as well as creating a better work-life balance for its employees.
One of our major priorities is increasing awareness of the accounting major and visiting schools to encourage students to major in accounting. We have seen a decrease in students majoring in accounting and earning their CPA credential. Part of the issue is the additional college credits (equivalent of a fifth year) needed to take the CPA exam. I can honestly say a major in accounting has given me the opportunity to do some amazing things at PwC.
What is your outlook for Jacksonville and Northeast Florida over the next five to 10 years?
I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’m very optimistic about Jacksonville. These next few years will be a big turning point for the city and the developments we’ve seen. In five to 10 years Jacksonville will have a thriving downtown and list of completed developments that will spur further economic growth.
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